Your little one may look very cute in a beret, but are they ready international travel?
While many parents dream of taking their kids to Europe, it’s easy to see why some are apprehensive about traveling off the beaten path. Packing up the kids for a trip to Disney World or the beach is easy, but taking your children on an eight or nine-hour flight to a new world with different languages, cultures, and surroundings isn’t for the faint of heart. Plus, some kids just travel better than others—and some parents are infinitely more comfortable with the idea.
That’s why you’ll see parents dragging their kids all over the world from the moment they’re born. Despite the extra work and sacrifices entailed, a selection of parents thinks international travel is worth it at any time and at all costs.
The rest of us need to think long and hard about when to invest in international travel with our children. How do you know your kids are old enough to enjoy the trip—or, at least not make it miserable for mom and dad?
While there’s no hard and fast rule that dictates when kids are old enough for travel to Europe, here are a few signs your children may be ready:
They can pull their own carry-on luggage.
European travel tends to be grittier and more hands-on than travel within the United States. Instead of riding in taxis from doorstep to doorstep, you may spend more time walking around airports and from train stations to hotels or Airbnbs. It’s also possible you’ll encounter lots of stairs everywhere you go and even in your hotel or rental condo.
Parents traveling to Europe with kids should make sure they are able to pull their own carry-on luggage. If you don’t, you could easily live to regret it (and wind up with a sore back).
They are eager (or at least willing) to try new foods.
If your kid is stuck on chicken fingers and french fries and will hardly try anything new, a trip to Europe could be a disaster. Sure, you’ll find kid’s menus with similar foods as you find at home sometimes, but not every time.
Before you take your kids to Europe, make sure they are willing and able to try new foods. But they also need to be willing to try foods that are prepared differently than at home. If your child will only eat Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and won’t touch the generic stuff, you could have a problem.
Your child can toilet themselves.
If you believe anything you read in this article, believe this: You do not want to be on diaper duty during your European getaway. Remember that having a child in diapers means more than just the act of changing diapers itself; it means carrying a diaper bag, changing pad, wipes, and other gear everywhere you go.
Most European trips are heavy on sightseeing and walking. Seeing Europe’s best sights also requires lots of standing in line. You’ll enjoy your trip more if you’re not lugging around a giant diaper bag and dealing with dirty diapers all day long.
Your kid can walk most of the day without getting tired.
You should also make sure your kid is sturdy enough to walk around most of the day without tiring. Trust us when we say you do not want to drag a stroller all the way to Europe then try to navigate it across cobblestone streets.
Once your child can walk most of the day, plan some downtime in between tours and events to make sure they don’t get overtired.
They are ready to sleep just about anywhere.
Finally, travel to Europe requires a willingness to sleep in strange rooms and beds. European hotels, motels, bed-n-breakfasts, and homes may be very different than what you’re used to at home. Bedrooms tend to be small, and you may or may not find central air conditioning. If you’re staying in a city center, you may need to sleep through street noise or the creaks and thuds of old buildings.
You can help children of any age sleep better by bringing some comforts from home—things like their favorite teddy bear or a sound machine they are used to.
Europe is calling: Are you ready?
Europe is the perfect place to take kids who are ready to experience the world and see sights and treasures they’ll study in history class. Once you endure a lengthy plane ride, you can marvel at ancient ruins from the beginnings of our civilization, world-famous art, and intact cultures that are very different from your own.
You can take your kids whenever you’re ready, but the trip will be more rewarding if everyone enjoys it. Watch for the signs your kids are prepared to explore Europe, then book your bucket list getaway before you change your mind.